W.R. Grace fourth-quarter earnings decline

Chemical maker expects to emerge soon from bankruptcy

February 10, 2011|By Andrea K. Walker, The Baltimore Sun

Chemical maker W.R. Grace & Co., which is close to emerging from bankruptcy, reported Thursday a 3.2 percent fourth-quarter earnings decline.

The Columbia-based company reported net income of $44.9 million, or 60 cents per share, for the quarter that ended Dec. 31, down from $46.4 million, or 63 cents per share, for the same quarter last year. The company said last year's earnings benefited from a tax settlement.

Quarterly sales increased 2.2 percent to $693 million, compared with $678.3 million in 2009, as the company continued to benefit from its expansion into emerging markets such as Asia and the Middle East. Sales increased 8.1 percent in emerging markets and made up 34 percent of all sales in the most recent quarter.

"We had a good quarter and a very good year," Chief Financial Officer Hudson La Force said in a phone interview.

Profits were hurt in part by higher costs for raw materials. La Force said the company uses oil-based raw materials that have risen in price. Grace said it plans to increase prices in 2011 because of the higher costs.

The company gave few updates on its looming emergence from Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. A joint plan was approved by a Delaware bankruptcy court judge Jan. 31. The company is awaiting approval from the U.S. District Court. Grace also would have to settle any appeals.

The deadline for appeals to be filed is Monday, and company officials plan to meet Wednesday with the presiding judge. Grace will then have a better idea when it could emerge from bankruptcy.

Grace forecast 2011 sales of $2.85 billion to $2.95 billion as customer demand increases. Sales should also benefit from new products, growth initiatives and improved pricing, the company said. Grace expects construction spending to remain weak in 2011 in North America and Western Europe, with stronger spending in Asia, the Middle East and Latin America.

andrea.walker@baltsun.com

twitter.com/ankwalker

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